Unit 1 Communication Across CulturesReading I Intercultural Communication：An IntroductionComprehension questions 1. Is it still often the case that “everyone‟s quick to blame the alien” in the contemporary world? This is still powerful in today‟s social and political rhetoric. For instance, it is not uncommon in today„s society to hear people say that most, if not all, of the social and economic problems are caused by minorities and immigrants. 2. What‟s the difference between today‟s intercultural contact and that of any time in the past? Today„s intercultural encounters are far more numerous and of greater importance than in any time in history. 3. What have made intercultural contact a very common phenomenon in our life today? New technology, in the form of transportation and communication systems, has accelerated intercultural contact; innovative communication systems have encouraged and facilitated cultural interaction; globalization of the economy has brought people together; changes in immigration patterns have also contributed to intercultural encounter. 4. How do you understand the sentence “culture is everything and everywhere”? Culture supplies us with the answers to questions about what the world looks like and how we live and communicate within that world. Culture teaches us how to behave in our life from the instant of birth. It is omnipresent. 5. What are the major elements that directly influence our perception and communication? The three major socio-cultural elements that directly influence perception and communication are cultural values, worldview (religion), and social organizations (family and state). 6. What does one‟s family teach him or her while he or she grows up in it? The family teaches the child what the world looks like and his or her place in that world. 7. Why is it impossible to separate our use of language from our culture? Because language is not only a form of preserving culture but also a means of sharing culture. Language is an organized, generally agreed-upon, learned symbol system that is used to represent the experiences within a cultural community. 8. What are the nonverbal behaviors that people can attach meaning to? People can attach meaning to nonverbal behaviors such as gestures, postures, facial expressions, eye contact and gaze, touch, etc.
9. How can a free, culturally diverse society exist? A free, culturally diverse society can exist only if diversity is permitted to flourish without prejudice and discrimination, both of which harm all members of the society.Reading II The Challenge of GlobalizationComprehension questions 1. Why does the author say that our understanding of the world has changed? Many things, such as political changes and technological advances, have changed the world very rapidly. In the past most human beings were born, lived, and died within a limited geographical area, never encountering people of other cultural backgrounds. Such an existence, however, no longer prevails in the world. Thus, all people are faced with the challenge of understanding this changed and still fast changing world in which we live. 2. What a “global village” is like? As our world shrinks and its inhabitants become interdependent, people from remote cultures increasingly come into contact on a daily basis. In a “global village”, members of once isolated groups of people have to communicate with members of other cultural groups. Those people may live thousands of miles away or right next door to each other. 3. What is considered as the major driving force of the post-1945 globalization? Technology, particularly telecommunications and computers are considered to be the major driving force. 4. What does the author mean by saying that “the „global‟ may be more local than the „local‟”? The increasing global mobility of people and the impact of new electronic media on human communications make the world seem smaller. We may communicate more with people of other countries than with our neighbors, and we may be more informed of the international events than of the local events. In this sense, “the „global‟ may be more local than the „local‟”. 5. Why is it important for businesspeople to know diverse cultures in the world? Effective communication may be the most important competitive advantage that firms have to meet diverse customer needs on a global basis. Succeeding in the global market today requires the ability to communicate sensitively with people from other cultures, a sensitivity that is based on an understanding of cross-cultural differences. 6. What are the serious problems that countries throughout the world are confronted with? Countries throughout the world are confronted with serious problems such as volatile international economy, shrinking resources, mounting environmental contamination, and epidemics that know no boundaries. 7. What implications can we draw from the case of Michael Fay? This case shows that in a world of international interdependence, the ability to
understand and communicate effectively with people from other cultures takes on extreme urgency. If we are unaware of the significant role culture plays in communication, we may place the blame for communication failure on people of other cultures. 8. What attitudes are favored by the author towards globalization? Globalization, for better or for worse, has changed the world greatly. Whether we like it or not, globalization is all but unstoppable. It is already here to stay. It is both a fact and an opportunity. The challenges are not insurmountable. Solutions exist, and are waiting to be identified and implemented. From a globalistic point of view, there is hope and faith in humanity.Case StudyCase 1 In this case, there seemed to be problems in communicating with people of different cultures in spite of the efforts made to achieve understanding. We should know that in Egypt as in many cultures, the human relationship is valued so highly that it is not expressed in an objective and impersonal way. While Americans certainly value human relationships, they are more likely to speak of them in less personal, more objective terms. In this case, Richard„s mistake might be that he chose to praise the food itself rather than the total evening, for which the food was simply the setting or excuse. For his host and hostess it was as if he had attended an art exhibit and complimented the artist by saying, “What beautiful frames your pictures are in.” In Japan the situation may be more complicated. Japanese people value order and harmony among persons in a group, and that the organization itself－be it a family or a vast corporation－is more valued than the characteristics of any particular member. In contrast, Americans stress individuality as a value and are apt to assert individual differences when they seem justifiably in conflict with the goals or values of the group. In this case: Richard„s mistake was in making great efforts to defend himself. Let the others assume that the errors were not intentional, but it is not right to defend yourself, even when your unstated intent is to assist the group by warning others of similar mistakes. A simple apology and acceptance of the blame would have been appropriate. But for poor Richard to have merely apologized would have seemed to him to be subservient, unmanly. When it comes to England, we expect fewer problems between Americans and Englishmen than between Americans and almost any other group. In this case we might look beyond the gesture of taking sugar or cream to the values expressed in this gesture: for Americans, ―”Help yourself”; for the English counterpart, ―”Be my guest”. American and English people equally enjoy entertaining and being entertained but they differ somewhat in the value of the distinction. Typically, the ideal guest at an American party is one who ―makes himself at home, even to the point of answering the door or fixing his own drink. For persons in many other societies, including at least this hypothetical English host, such guest behavior is presumptuous or rude. Case 2 A common cultural misunderstanding in classes involves conflicts between what is said to be direct communication style and indirect communication style. In
American culture, people tend to say what is on their minds and to mean what they say. Therefore, students in class are expected to ask questions when they need clarification. Mexican culture shares this preference of style with American culture in some situations, and that„s why the students from Mexico readily adopted the techniques of asking questions in class. However, Korean people generally prefer indirect communication style, and therefore they tend to not say what is on their minds and to rely more on implications and inference, so as to be polite and respectful and avoid losing face through any improper verbal behavior. As is mentioned in the case, to many Koreans, numerous questions would show a disrespect for the teacher, and would also reflect that the student has not studied hard enough. Case 3 The conflict here is a difference in cultural values and beliefs. In the beginning, Mary didn‟t realize that her Dominican sister saw her as a member of the family, literally. In the Dominican view, family possessions are shared by everyone of the family. Luz was acting as most Dominican sisters would do in borrowing without asking every time. Once Mary understood that there was a different way of looking at this, she would become more accepting. However, she might still experience the same frustration when this happened again. She had to find ways to cope with her own emotional cultural reaction as well as her practical problem (the batteries running out). Case 4 It might be simply a question of different rhythms. Americans have one rhythm in their personal and family relations, in their friendliness and their charities. People from other cultures have different rhythms. The American rhythm is fast. It is characterized by a rapid acceptance of others. However, it is seldom that Americans engage themselves entirely in a friendship. Their friendships are warm, but casual, and specialized. For example, you have a neighbor who drops by in the morning for coffee. You see her frequently, but you never invite her for dinner --- not because you don„t think she could handle a fork and a knife, but because you have seen her that morning. Therefore, you reserve your more formal invitation to dinner for someone who lives in a more distant part of the city and whom you would not see unless you extended an invitation for a special occasion. Now, if the first friend moves away and the second one moves nearby, you are likely to reverse this --- see the second friend in the mornings for informal coffee meetings, and the first one you will invite more formally to dinner. Americans are, in other words, guided very often by their own convenience. They tend to make friends easily, and they don„t feel it necessary to go to a great amount of trouble to see friends often when it becomes inconvenient to do so, and usually no one is hurt. But in similar circumstances people from many other cultures would be hurt very deeply.